With the NFL Draft only two and a half weeks away speculation and rumors regarding who will be selected where in the draft are flying around at their highest rate since initial mock drafts dropped at the end of the 2015-2016 season. While most of the media is caught up in the hoopla of which blue chip prospect will be selected with San Diego’s number three overall pick, there is another player in this year’s class that, despite massive bust potential, could end up benefiting the Chargers just as much as said blue chip prospects. And perhaps the best part about this player? He can very well be had in the third round.
This player is none other than former Notre Dame OLB Jaylon Smith. Now, if you are unfamiliar with his situation and have only seen bits and pieces of highlight videos such as the one below then I know what you are thinking.
“How can a player this tantalizing slide all the way into the third round? He should be a top 10 pick at worst should he not?!?!?” While all of this seemed plausible as recent as last December it all changed on New Year’s day during the Fiesta Bowl in which Smith’s Fighting Irish took on Ohio State.
In the later stages in the game after Ohio State was well on their way to a 44-28 victory Jaylon Smith suffered a torn ACL and LCL as well as possible nerve damage in his left knee. Even though going back to school for his senior season and recovering seemed like the best move for his career going forward, the idea of collecting some, if not all, of his five million dollar insurance policy that becomes valid if he was to fall out of the first round was too enticing to pass up.
This conundrum has led many analysts to give varying opinions on where he should be selected in the upcoming draft. However, after viewing a few mock drafts from trusted sources such as ESPN, NFL Network, and CBS Sports it seems as if Smith’s draft stock ranges anywhere between the early second and late third round. If this just so happens to be the case and Jaylon Smith is still available when the Chargers are on the clock with the number sixty-six overall selection they shouldn’t hesitate to select him, injury concerns and all.
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Don’t get me wrong Smith is covered from head to toe with red flags. We only need to go back as far as the 2013 NFL Draft and look at the Marcus Lattimore situation to realize that recovering from significant knee injuries is no small feat, nor guarantee. No one, not even Smith himself, is sure if he will be able to play football effectively again. However, injury concerns aside this man oozes pro bowl potential, enough potential to warrant a gamble of this nature on the Chargers behalf.
In his junior season the 6’2” 240 pound linebacker was able to rack up 115 total tackles, 69 of them being solo tackles, alongside nine tackles for a loss, one of those being a sack. While those numbers don’t jump off the page from a pass-rushing perspective they do represent the part of Jaylon Smith’s game that made him such a hot commodity to NFL teams before his knee injury.
Much like fellow 2016 Draft prospect Myles Jack, Jaylon smith is versatile in his game. Smith is one of the rare college players in this day and age that can set the edge from a three-point stance, rush the quarterback as an OLB, and even drop back in coverage and stick with the opposing team’s tight end all the way up the field. While comparisons between himself and Jack are far-fetched to say the least, the two players are similar to a certain extent.
Many believe that the possibility of Smith playing in 2016 is a long shot, yet another reason as to why the Chargers, a team with so many other needs, should pass on this player. However, if the Chargers are able to secure a solid Safety and Defensive end within the first two rounds I’d say go for Smith in the third round. As much as it pains me to admit it, I believe that Telesco is content with rolling Chris Watt back out as the starting center to begin next season. Otherwise, I’d be fully onboard with bringing in a Center, alongside a Safety and Defensive End, in the early rounds as well.
As the 2016 NFL Draft inches closer the Chargers have a lot of tough, yet important decisions to make regarding the future of the franchise. Is drafting Jaylon Smith one of them? What do you think? Should the Chargers take a gamble on Jaylon Smith or should they proceed on the side of caution and select someone who could have more of an immediate impact? Leave a comment in the comment section below and let all of us here at Bolt Beat know.